(CNS): The Cayman Islands premier has called on the worlds’ nations attending the corruption summit in London to stop the hypocrisy regarding the fight against financial crime and make standards truly global. Alden McLaughlin did not name the United States but he made it clear that any new international standard had to apply to major countries as well as smaller jurisdictions, otherwise the fight would be lost. McLaughlin, who was invited to interject during one of the summit sessions, said there was no point continuing the rhetoric if major countries were excluded from the agreed standards.
While the summit has been criticised for not nailing down all of the British territories to an open public register of beneficial owners, here in the Cayman Islands, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has taken to Facebook to accuse the premier and Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton of lying to the people and, by agreeing to be part of a wider global exchange on beneficial ownership, of destroying Cayman’s offshore sector.
Yesterday, the Cayman government announced that it was prepared to widen the deal it has with the UK for the exchange of ownership details with the relevant authorities to other countries but was still not prepared to establish a central public register unless and until it becomes the worldwide agreed system.
Speaking at the summit, McLaughlin told representatives and leaders from around the world that Cayman’s historic cooperation and credentials in the fight against corruption could not be seriously challenged any more and the jurisdiction had earned its right to be at the table to help in the development of any new future global standards. However, he made it clear that whatever is agreed had to apply to all.
“In order to be successful and to seriously tackle corruption and not just pay lip service to it, we in this room and beyond must be committed to creating a standard that is truly global. It is time to put behind us the shades of hypocrisy which … have been part and parcel of the global discussion on this issue for years and years,” he said.
Without naming the United States, he added, “If those countries with real political clout on the world stage continue to focus only on smaller jurisdictions … while ignoring obvious jurisdictions that ought to be part of the conversation, the result will be continued failure.”
McLaughlin pressed the message that if corrupt business continues in jurisdictions that are allowed to be left out of committing to any new standard, the efforts to eliminate global corruption will be pointless.
“Corrupt business is not attracted to jurisdictions that maintain high standards and where the light shines brightest, such as the Cayman Islands. Instead, it will be attracted to those places which are less transparent and where the standards are lower than others,” he added.
Ignoring the issue of hypocrisy, NGOs, activists, politicians and the media continue to criticise British Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to persuade the UK’s crown dependencies and overseas territories to agree to a public register of beneficial owners of trusts, funds and other financial entities domiciled in their jurisdictions.
Facing a worldwide clamour and intense pressure from global leaders for full exposure to offshore business, the Cayman Islands delegation has offered to be part of whatever new global standard is required, so long as it is across the board. Nevertheless, McKeeva Bush took aim at McLaughlin and Panton, accusing them of selling out.
In a Facebook post yesterday following the announcement that the Cayman Islands Government was willing to take part in developing new standards for information exchange and repealing the so-called secrecy law, Bush declared it was the end of Cayman’s international business and government’s revenue that it collected from the sector.
“The premier or Wayne Panton said before they left for London that they had 80% support for what they were doing. They will have turned 80% of our people into bankruptcy that’s what they are accomplishing in London,” he wrote on his Facebook page, as he railed against a public register, which he said would put people in danger.
The day-long summit was opened at Lancaster House in London Thursday morning by PM David Cameron, who described corruption as the cancer at the heart of so many problems in the world.
Emerging from the summit is a Global Forum for Asset Recovery, which will bring together governments and law enforcement agencies to discuss returning assets to Nigeria, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.
The UK has also announced a clampdown on property owners, particularly in London, where rich foreigners buy properties but hide their true ownership. Foreign firms that own property in the UK will be required to declare their assets in a public register.
Five other countries, France, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Afghanistan, have also pledged to launch public registers of true company ownership. Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Indonesia, Ireland and Georgia announced initial steps towards similar arrangements.
While there was more attention at the summit on the corruption onshore and the hiding of assets in the major countries, critics still focussed on the UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies. There were a number of demonstrations in London during the summit about tax havens and the British government’s direct links to many financial centres, with Bermuda and Cayman cited at the top of most lists.
Cameron came to the defence of some British territories, noting that they had come a long way and that Jersey, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Anguilla and the Isle of Man had agreed to join a group of several dozen nations that share their registers with one another.
However, Alan Bell, the chief minister from the Isle of Man, echoed McLaughlin’s sentiments when he said progress could not be made unless the US did more and tackled its own tax havens. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said that the United States had announced a set of financial regulations designed to force companies to disclose more information about their owners.